06 KING Bill & Val
Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2006.
Bill King was destined to become involved in the transport industry. In the 1908 Bill’s grandfather, Joe and his brother, William, began taking up leases on Exmouth Gulf Station in Western Australia.
It was here Bill senior saw his first bus; it was the only equipment he had ever seen where the payload took itself on and off the vehicle. In 1938 he purchased the Coburg Heidelberg Omnibus Service with four Federal buses that operated over the length of Bell St. In 1946 Bill Jnr joined the business as an apprentice.
In 1967 the Kings retained Alan Denning, a coachbuilder in Brisbane, to construct a vehicle specifically for Australian conditions. The result was a 41 passenger single-deck, mono-coach with underfloor cargo bins. It was powered by a rear mounted V653 GM with Allison automatic transmission, Rockwell axles and air brakes. It was the first Denning coach and was to become synonymous with coach transport throughout Australia in both cities and the outback.
Meanwhile young Bill King had become obsessed with outback travel and was convinced there was a future in “off the beaten track travel” so he purchased two Land Rovers, an ex-army International ambulance and the Denning from his father. In 1967 he launched Bill King’s Northern Safaris. Bill soon realized it was uneconomical to use small seating capacity vehicles and in 1970 purchased two ex-army International 4x4s and two M-series Bedford 4x4s. Eventually, with Harley Evenden in Melbourne, Bill designed and built his own 18 passenger vehicles and called them Desert Cruisers. He relocated the Desert Cruisers to Alice Springs, introduced new itineraries and successfully packaged the tours with Ansett Airlines.
By 1979 Bill King’s Northern Safaris was operating 10 vehicles and had four Greyhound coaches on charter. At the same time Trans Australia Airlines had formed AAT with five new Dennings and in 1980 the two companies merged. Bill King was appointed operations manager and the tours were marketed as Bill King’s Australian Adventure Tours. Later the name was changed to AAT Kings. Bill remained with the company, and it was sold to the McGearys in 1985.